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Name: Price v. Superior Court (Riverside) (2023) 93 Cal.App.5th 13
Case #: E078954
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 07/03/2023

Geofence warrant satisfied the probable cause and particularity requirements of the Fourth Amendment and was not overbroad. Victim J.R. was shot and killed in the front porch area of his home. Defendant was identified as a suspect in the shooting based on cellular location data and identifying information returned pursuant to a geofence warrant to Google. Defendant’s motion to quash, traverse, and suppress evidence obtained pursuant to the geofence warrant was denied. He was held to answer for murder and other charges. After his renewed suppression motion was denied, defendant petitioned for writ relief. Held: Petition denied. Defendant argued there was not probable cause to show that evidence of a crime (i.e., the suspects’ identities) would be revealed through a geofence search. The court disagreed, concluding the warrant showed a fair probability that (1) the suspects were carrying cell phones, (2) the phones were using a Google application, and, therefore, (3) Google would have location data and identifying information revealing the suspects’ identities. The geofence warrant, which sought location data for a 22-minute period on the date of the shooting, was also sufficiently particular and not overbroad. The warrant was reasonably and narrowly drawn in geographic scope and time period to capture the location data of only suspects and witnesses to the shooting death of the victim, and to minimize the possibility of allowing the government to obtain the location data and identifying information for uninvolved individuals—persons who were neither suspects nor witnesses to the shooting. The court further concluded that the good faith exception to the warrant requirement would preclude suppression of the geofence warrant evidence, even if the geofence warrant was invalid under the Fourth Amendment. A well-trained officer would have had no reason to believe the warrant failed to establish probable cause, and the investigator who drafted the warrant acted in good faith in seeking and obtaining from Google only so much location data and identifying information as was reasonably necessary to identify the suspects and possible witnesses to the shooting.

Although the government violated CalECPA’s notice requirements, suppression of the geofence warrant evidence was not required. Here, the government violated the notice provisions of CalECPA (§ 1546.2) by failing to timely submit to the Department of Justice and serve defendant with notice of the warrant, the nature of the investigation, and the copies or summaries of the electronic information obtained. Despite the violation, the court determined suppression was unwarranted. Although CalECPA authorizes suppression of electronic evidence based on a violation of CalECPA, nothing in CalECPA requires the suppression of electronic information in a criminal proceeding. The court further concluded suppression of the geofence warrant evidence or its fruits was not an appropriate remedy for the CalECPA notice errors in this case. Although defendant established a notice violation occurred and that the notice provisions play a central role in CalECPA, the People established that the CalECPA violations did not undermine the purpose of the CalECPA notice provisions. For the same reasons the magistrate ordered the warrant sealed, the magistrate would have granted the People additional extensions of time to provide notice had the People requested them. [Editor’s Note: The court also disagreed with defendant’s argument that the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule, which applies to Fourth Amendment violations, does not apply to electronic information obtained in violation of CalECPA.]